Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka have both been crowned champion at the Madrid Masters, continuing their impressive seasons. But do their respective victories represent something altogether different?
While both Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka are the 2023 Madrid Masters champions, there is a contrast between the two victors in Madrid.
For Alcaraz, this victory represents his dominance on clay in the absence of Rafael Nadal, while Sabalenka’s highlights the blossoming of an encapsulating rivalry, which could amount to a very exciting Roland Garros.
For the last year or so, Iga Swiatek has been the undeniable dominant force on the WTA circuit. The winner of two of the four grand slams last year had a strong start to her clay court season when she bested Sabalenka in straight sets in Barcelona.
When the pair met again in the final at Madrid there was only one question on people’s minds: “Repeat or Revenge?”
Sabalenka was chasing her second title in Madrid, and got off to a good start, gaining the only break of the first set, taking it 6-3.
Swiatek responded well in the early stages of set two, with some fantastic hitting from the backhand giving her a 3-1 lead.
But Sabalenka gained herself a break of serve and levelled the set at 3-3. She then had further break points to take the initiative in set two, but failed to capitalise on them, and Swiatek held serve to lead the set 4-3.
Sabalenka would come to rue those missed break points as she herself was broken and Swiatek levelled the match, taking set two 6-3.
After both players traded breaks at the start of set three with some phenomenal baseline hitting, the decider was poised nicely at 3-3. But after Sabalenka got the crucial break to lead 5-3, she was serving for the title.
In a cagey final game, Swiatek saved three championship points, before Sabalenka finally capitalised on her fourth with a crushing cross-court forehand. The win for Sabalenka leaves the pair at one title a piece on clay this season, meaning it could be anyone’s game when the two step onto Roland Garros.
The birth of a spectacular rivalry?
With the careers of some of tennis’ greats entering their twilight, the sport may well need a good rivalry to replace that which we have had for years. While many have teased the potential of Alcaraz and Sinner, the two have only met in one ATP final.
Alcaraz and Sinner still have time to further their rivalry and I have no doubt that they soon will, but there is a potentially spectacular rivalry brewing in the WTA.
Having contested the last two high-ranking finals, both Swiatek and Sabalenka are clearly the dominant forces in women’s tennis.
Having won the last two majors, it looks certain that, barring any injuries, the pair will be favourites to contest the French Open final when it rolls around at the end of the month.
Competitive rivalries are paramount to the success of a sport and Sabalenka and Swiatek are providing that at just the right moment. With the Rome Masters just getting under way, it hopes to be another week of enthralling tennis. Who knows, maybe we’ll see Swiatek and Sabalenka locking horns yet again…
Alcaraz retains again
Before the final of the Barcelona Open, Carlos Alcaraz had never retained a title; now he has done so twice.
The form player in men’s tennis came through tough opposition to retain his title in Madrid against a gallant Jan-Lennard Struff, who was making his first appearance in a Master’s 1000 final at the age of 33.
Despite his age, it appears that Struff has entered a sort of purple patch in his career, the German world number 65 (after the final he has since gone to world number 28!) recently made it to the quarter finals of Monte Carlo, before losing out to eventual winner Andrey Rublev.
Struff had to come through qualifying to get into the Madrid masters, and even then, only qualified as a Lucky Loser. But after beating players like Shelton, Tsitsipas and fellow qualifier Karatsev in the semi-finals, he secured his spot in his first final against Alcaraz.
Understandably Alcaraz was heavy favourite for the final and took a tight opening set 6-4.
But this was not going to be a cake walk for the young Alcaraz. Struff had clearly come with a game plan, as he utilised the serve and volley to great effect, racing to a 3-0 lead in set two.
Alcaraz was unable to make up the ground, and Struff levelled the match after winning the set 6-3.
Heading into set three, Alcaraz was under serious pressure and answered it by utilising his trusty drop shot, which had been mostly neutralised due to Struff’s entry to the net.
The cogs were beginning to turn for Alcaraz as he broke Struff to lead the deciding set 4-1. Some heavy hitting from the baseline, followed up by some net poaching of his own, gave Alcaraz the chance to serve for the match at 5-3.
He grabbed the opportunity with both hands as Struff failed to return an Alcaraz serve, giving him the title.
After winning his fourth title of the year already, it looks like Alcaraz is going to be the man to beat heading into Roland Garros later this month. It seems that he is picking up the mantle left by his idol Rafael Nadal, and everybody is desperate to see if he can claim his maiden French Open title.
The star attractions at this year’s Wimbledon?
The magnificent form shown by Alcaraz, Swiatek and Sabalenka already this year suggests that there is still so much more to come.
Though all are Grand Slam champions, none have been able to master the grass at Wimbledon… yet.
They will all be desperate to get their hands on their first Wimbledon titles, and will no doubt produce some extraordinary tennis while pursuing such.
If you want to get tickets for this year’s Wimbledon Championships, then look no further than Wimbledon Debenture Tickets, the best place to buy tickets for Wimbledon.
With the form shown by some players in 2023, it promises to be a truly exceptional year of tennis!